Arlington County has received a $710,000 grant to convert an outside lane of Lee Highway to bus- and HOV-only.
The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street during peak morning hours and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period. During these times, roughly 25 loaded buses travel that stretch per hour, staff said in a report this January.
At other times, it will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.
The project is one of six “low-cost, low-risk” projects to receive a grant through the Commuter Choice program, which funds transit projects with toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway. On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to award $3.5 million in grants, NVTC announced.
“We’re expanding the transportation network now using a conservative strategy focused on low-cost projects and longstanding assets to ensure access to convenient, safe and reliable choices whenever people are ready to commute,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice said in a statement.
The scope and timeline of the program are limited this year after revenue plummeted due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, Commuter Choice on the I-66 corridor anticipated $25 million in grant funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Instead, tolled trips dropped by nearly 50%, the 2020 Commuter Choice report found.
“Given the lower revenues and increased competition for this round of I-66 Commuter Choice, we’re pleased that NVTC and the CTB selected this project for funding,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.
The funding, less than the full $1 million the County applied for, will be used to cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane.
“We anticipate fully implementing the project but have not yet had discussions about adjustments to the project scope based on the lower funding amount,” Balliet said.
The County Board will be need to accept and appropriate the funds and execute an agreement with NVTC, he said. Staff have up to two years to dedicate the money to the project, and up to five years to spend it.
The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.
The county was also denied a request $10 million to help add a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street.
Other funded projects include three “existing, high-performing express bus services” and $1 million towards a second entrance to the McLean Metro station, the announcement said.
These projects minimize “the risk around the uncertainty of a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes and (make) the best use of the minimal available toll revenues,” the announcement said.
Since the Commonwealth of Virginia and NVTC established the program in 2017, it has provided more than $60 million grant funding to 36 projects in Northern Virginia.
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